By ERIN ROLL
Gyms and indoor recreation areas can reopen on Tuesday, Sept. 1, Gov. Phil Murphy announced at a press briefing in Trenton today, Aug. 26.
After being shut down due to the pandemic in March, gyms will be permitted to reopen at 25 percent capacity. Equipment must be positioned six feet apart, and regularly sanitized. Both staff and members will be required to wear masks.
Fitness class capacities, including for yoga and Pilates, are further limited to one person per 200 square feet. Gyms must keep logs of staff and members who are present each day in the case of a virus-infected person entering the gym.
Gym reopenings have been among the most challenging to address during the pandemic, Murphy said. “But given where we are in this fight, I believe that we are ready to take this next step forward,” he said.
Access to locker rooms and shower areas will also be limited, with members asked to arrive at the gym dressed in their workout clothes. Treadmills, which are often placed close together, would only allow for every other one to be in use.
Some gyms have been offering outside activities during the closure. Those activities will be allowed to continue.
Murphy said that apart from “a few knuckleheads,” the majority of gym owners in New Jersey had complied with the state’s rules on gyms.
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said officials are aware of the physical and mental health benefits of exercise.
However, she warned, the risk of virus transmission is higher exercising in enclosed spaces due to people breathing more rapidly, and due to people being in close proximity to one another. She seconded the need for members to wear masks and use due caution.
And she warned: “Please do not go to your gym if you are not feeling well.”
The guidance includes indoor recreation facilities and amusement parks such as American Dream’s indoor amusement parks, rink, indoor ski resort and golf course, and iPlay America in Freehold. Murphy said it will be up to those establishments to determine when and how they reopen their spaces.
No definite date has been set on the restart of indoor dining at restaurants, but Murphy said he hoped it would be sooner than mid-September.
FEMA Lost Wages relief
New Jersey will be applying for the FEMA Lost Wages Supplemental Assistance Program.
The program will pay eligible unemployed New Jersey residents a $900 lump sum for the three weeks in August that federal unemployment was not being paid out.
And, Murphy said, the federal government needed to reinstate the $600 a week unemployment benefit, which expired when the Senate took a recess in July.
Rob Asaro-Angelo, the commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said the FEMA money was expected to arrive in October.
The fund is being paid out from the Disaster Relief Fund.
Health officials reported 288 new cases today, Aug. 26, compared to 373 on Tuesday, bringing the state total to 190,306.
The positivity rate stands at 1.99 percent, up from 1.33 percent on Aug. 24, and the virus transmission rate stands at 0.80, down from 0.83 on Aug. 25.
The state also reported 11 new confirmed deaths today, Aug. 26, compared to five on Aug. 25, bringing the state total to 14,134. The number of probable deaths has been reduced from 1,829 to 1,780.
Hospitals reported 425 patients on Aug. 25, including 72 critical care patients and 29 ventilators in use, compared to 432 patients, 78 critical care and 30 ventilators on Aug. 24.
Today, Essex County health officials reported one additional death, the same number as reported on Aug. 25, bringing the county total to 1,861, and seven new cases, compared to 13 on Aug. 25, bringing the county total to 19,943.
Montclair health officials reported three new cases today, now totaling 496 total, and the number of deaths remains at 54.